Argumentation in conversations: a Romanian perspective

A few weeks ago I wrote an article about the art of conversation with Romanian people. The conclusion was quite simple, the perfect conversation with a Romanian is a controlled monologue, and the perfect dialogue is an exchange of interleaved monologues. But one topic remained open: from time to time we need to deliver arguments. This is what we’ll be talking about over the next few paragraphs.

Argumentation is a simple issue, all you need to keep in mind is the ancient rules of the social Romanian rock-paper-scissors. It goes like this:

  1. “I’m older than you, I know better” beats almost every argument. For exceptions see below.
  2. “Nobody cares what you think” beats anything except #1.
  3. “I don’t care, screw you” beats #1 and #4 onwards, but, strangely, will also beat #2, which will take us to an infinite loop between #2 and #3.
  4. “You must do [action] because this is how people do it/this is how it’s done” beats all the things from #5 onwards.
  5. “You must do [action] because the [relative] of [unimportant person] did it as well”. This beats even common sense (but frankly, only beats #6 and #7).
  6. “I can’t believe you’re (not) doing [action]”, even if the action doesn’t concern the speaker, beats #7. This phrase is accompanied with “are you stupid” and, depending on your age, a slap.
  7. “I think that [valid opinion here]” and “My belief is [valid belief here]” get beaten by all of the above.

Once you understand this simple game, you are ready to discuss with a Romanian, and you’re even ready to win arguments. But because some of my readers won’t believe that this is the case, let me explain in detail the reason why argumentation is made like this.

I will not explain the power of #2 and #3, I think they are obvious. Perhaps most of you are familiar with #1 as well, and you’re wondering why #1 is first in the list. Well, #1 is the supreme argument, and even if one opposes it with #3, #1 still stands. Even beaten, the age argument will be always there, and in rehashes of the conversation, the age argument will come over and over again. Eventually, it will reign over common sense; and even if initially it is used against us, the age argument becomes OUR argumentation as well.

#4 is special, and feels Romanian 100%. It’s the first argument that feels like it has reason behind it. In Romania, everything is done ‘like everybody does it’. Not doing it like everybody  is not only a mistake, but a sin, and it will be punished severely. This gets into play even if you do something that nobody has done before, let’s say you’re trying to invent something. It’s obvious that if “people don’t do it” it shouldn’t be done.

For example, until 2009 everybody was pushing me to buy an apartment, because this is what everyone was doing back then. Now nobody remembers that, but it’s only natural: social amnesia is required to properly survive in Romania, this is how people voted Iliescu in 2000 and are yelling about Băsescu’s dictatorship. And if you remind them about that, they ask: and wouldn’t have been good? Look at X, he has a house, he has his own home! Which take us to #5

Whenever there’s an example of a stupid relative of someone we couldn’t give a rat’s ass about (for example a son of a work-colleague of your parents, or a daughter of the teller in the grocery store, or even the sister of the stylist from the hair-salon) their misunderstood choices, actions or achievements become crucial, the benchmark of your own life. Let’s say the daughter of a work-colleague of your parents got hired as a news anchor at a local Tv station. Not only will you receive this as an example of how unsuccessful your life is, but also you’re asked insistently why you’re not able to marry such a woman (even if you’re married, doesn’t matter). Explaining to your parents that you don’t like whores and how she got that job is not an argument. If others did it, then you’re a failure.

Then, naturally, we have the “I can’t believe” argument, which really gives you no option to counter with reason. The sentence is written, there’s no deviation from that. The one that utters this argument has already his or her mind made up. You’re a deviant, and you should be stoned. If your age is below a certain threshold (18 years, let’s say) OR you’re still living with your parents, it might be accompanied by a good slapping.

Finally, many have tried to use reason behind their argumentation. This is an idealist’s take, and it always works against the owner of such high ideals. Arguments are unwelcome, they make people uneasy, and it forces them to think. In Romania you don’t think, you KNOW, God damn it!!! Even if you’re told something completely new, your answer will start with “I know, but…”. Remember. Your opinion must always be slightly different, and it has to ruin other people’s lives. Otherwise, you’re not a true Romanian.

Full of hope that this guide will help you settle any arguments with Romanians in the future, I thank you for your patience. And yes, I know I’m wrong. But screw you, I don’t care :>

7 Replies to “Argumentation in conversations: a Romanian perspective”

  1. Diana

    Well…you’re wrong!!! Haha just kidding!
    It’s very hard to get into a conversation with a Romanian character, ’cause like u said, they/we KNOW everything. Especially older ones, they own the truth! Beyond that, they feel entitled to give you advices, even their knowledge into whatever subject is on the table, is limited or even zero! I had it so many times with my dear parents, that this time, I prefer to keep my own stuff for myself! For crying out loud, Nobody knows better than me what’s my life choices! Example: driving along with my mom and listen to her precious advices: how to change lanes and what’s more important when to do that! Need to say my mom doesn’t have a DL? :)))
    This comes to a conclusion: Romanians are Jack of All Trades! I felt it on my own skin and under my skin, soon after I arrived in States: knew everything and yet knew nothing! I had to adjust, and NOW I can finally say I’m not Romanian much!
    I think you forgot something in your essay: the main point of almost all Romanian conversations/interactions, money! It drives me crazy when someone asks me lots of personal questions, especially about my income! That’s a personal matter, and I never answer to that stupid question. Then it comes along an “hmmm” and obviously they already KNOW I’m starving, ’cause c’mon if you do the big bucks, you’ll have the tendency to brag about it! After all we are Romanians! See how it works? :))) maybe that’s the reason I don’t do Romanian mixers, meetings and whatever!

  2. Dorin Lazăr

    I didn’t notice that there’s the issue of money, I always thought that what others think of you is always more important.

    I don’t know why your message went into spam, I shall check my spam folder more often.

  3. Diana

    Dorin: Money is a regular issue in a Romanian to Romanian interaction, at least in my book. Along with immigration status(!). :))
    If you use Akismet, for a couple of weeks it’s sucking my comments in. 🙂 Someone reported one of my comments as spam, and voila Mary-go-round started to spin:))

  4. Vasi


    “The fish doesn’t think
    The fish is mute, expressionless
    The fish doesn’t think because the fish knows everything”
    This Is A Film – Goran Bregovic And Iggy Pop

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